Dead of Winter: The Long Night Review - Now With 90% Recycled Content!

Right, let's tackle the zombie elephant in the room first. When I reviewed the original Dead of Winter, I wasn't the biggest fan. I never hated it, but I felt it didn't live up to the hype and I had some issues with the way it played. And boy did I get ragged online for it, "how dare you insult my baby?!?!" But that's normal when you criticise a game that is hyped beyond measure, you have to expect some zombie trolls to peek out of their lairs.

Now I heard that Plaid Hat were designing a space themed game using the same mechanics and that got me more excited. Alien infiltrators on the space station and cool sci-fi stuff, that sounded great. But then The Long Night got announced and I'm like, seriously, what about the cool space one? We've got a zombie game already, why do we need a second standalone version? But despite this I went in with an open mind, noting all the previous thematic/mechanical oddities and knowing what to expect.

Has anything changed from the original and are the new additions worth forking out the price tag alone for anyone who owns it?




Designer: Jonathan Gilmour, Isaac Vaga
Publisher: Plaid Hat Games
Age: 14+
Players: 2-5
Time: 90-120 minutes
RRP: £49.99


Storing Up For The Winter


To justify the price tag, The Long Night comes with a ton of pieces. As well as all the usual cards and dice, you've got a bucket of standees for all the characters, the new bandits and zombies as well. Some will always prefer miniatures, personally I prefer standees because you get to see gorgeous coloured artwork on them. If you've seen the original, you'll recognise the style instantly and one thing I remember from my previous review, I was more than happy to praise the impressive component quality and artwork, it really is stellar. Give me the Arkham/Eldritch standees rather than unpainted miniatures any day, the art will immerse me more. I particularly like the new Raxxon zombies, very cool and grotesque designs that brought back nostalgic memories of many nights blasting away on Left For Dead (and recently too, I've lately been getting back into it) .

The locations are now solid tiles instead of card, a welcome improvement and as well as the new module locations, you now have a graveyard tile to put all the deceased survivors over the course of the game. Aside from that it serves no purpose whatsoever other than sucking up more table space. All the other components are what you've seen before. The fold out board, the red exposure die, the item and X-Road cards, it's all familiar territory.

Except now you have no way to store everything. There was no insert in the previous box, but all those companies building inserts sorted that issue out. However unless I'm mistaken, none of them will be able to incorporate all the new stuff here as well. Which means you're going to be hanging on to both boxes if you own both unless you've come up with some fancy bespoke method and they're aren't small, they'll take up a fair bit of shelf space.



Those Previous Gripes Still Remain


You will notice in my previous review I had some gripes with the theme and mechanics in Dead of Winter. The exposure die could make or break your game by itself, the X-Road cards never triggered, zombies were merely an occasional distraction and not even worth caring about usually and a Betrayer in the mix would spike the difficulty to insane levels just by his mere presence. And don't get me started on how a game is thematic when a dog can wield weapons and ride a horse that can survive in arctic conditions. . . . .

Well . . . all of those still remain here, just replace the dog with a chimp, that's the only change, though at least the chimp has opposable thumbs so if he's intelligent enough I can see him wielding a gun. So if you had the same issues before, you're going to have them here as well. No variant rules bar a first player vote mechanic that's rarely used, no tweaks to the old system, essentially The Long Night has implemented an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach, despite the fact I feel some of those parts need fixing. If you played The Long Night without any new additional content, you would not be able to tell which version you were playing between the original and this one.

So literally the only main difference between both editions is the new modules. The original mechanics are the same, the cards will have new encounters/effects, but they work in the same way. It's Dead of Winter 1.2 as opposed to 2.0. And even though I went in knowing what to expect, the same issues reared their heads. The exposure die practically gave or took the game away from the colonists depending on the luck and the presence of a Betrayer would spike the difficulty curve greatly. Not to mention that if a survivor knows he has no chance of meeting his secret agenda, he has no incentive to help the group complete the main objective so don't be surprised if a few games tank as a result (yes it DOES happen, don't deny it!)

The X-Road cards barely fired yet again. In fact I'm serious here, in my first three games using all modules (never used one on its own) a grand total of 3 X-Road cards fired........THREE! That's a card per game and one of those had none fire at all. The conditions are still too closed off to trigger often and it's so frustrating because when they do fire, they're the best part of the game! Being able to read the options ahead of choosing hurts the theme a bit, but unfortunately the X-Road companion app (which is a great addition by the way) had not yet been updated for the expansion (you missed a mark there Plaid Hat, it should have been ready for release). So the vast majority of the time, a player will look at the conditions printed and simply put it under the deck. Forget the whole "keep it a secret from the next player" mentality, most players will simply just put the card back and ignore it despite me trying to convince them otherwise in an attempt to rescue the game from that disconnect.



10% Added Zombie Juice


The actual "new" content in The Long Night is the three new modules, Improvements, Bandits and Raxxon. The improvements module is tiny, it's basically a bunch of cards that you can build and add to the colony to gain special effects and bonuses. Some of them take longer to build than others and they range from fireplaces to outhouses to the amusing DVD player. They can help a ton and are usually worth going for. But more importantly the rules for including them are literally a paragraph long. They're so simple that there's no reason you wouldn't include them in every single game.

The Bandits module would be my weak link of the three. On each round bandits will appear at random locations taking up spaces for zombies. They don't attack survivors (which I find a bit odd), but left to their own devices they'll steal item cards from the locations and pile them face up on their own board. Players can go to the camp to steal or battle for those stolen cards. Again like the improvements, this module is pretty small and simple and almost an auto include.

Except the problem is, for the most part these bandits don't really affect the game very much. You'll get a few additional zombies, which never really did much to begin with let's face it and some cards will go missing, but there's plenty in the decks to search through so most of the time you just ignore them. Killing the odd bandit every now and again on your travels will dramatically mitigate their impact. Unless you're really desperate for a particular item in that camp, there's zero reason to even visit it. Becoming their leader on exile is also pretty underwhelming, not to mention I find it hard to believe that a chimpanzee or a bookworm student would suddenly become a bandit leader. I'll include it because it's so simple to teach, but it's definitely the weakest part and yet you've got way too many standees taking up space in your game box for all the bandits.


Resident Lawsuit


My personal favourite thematically is the Raxxon module. This is essentially the Umbrella Corporation put into Dead of Winter. It's a special facility which contains items created from all sorts of weird sci-fi tech, that are seriously cool and powerful if you can find them. On top of that you can also find multiple different colour pills that can grant different powerful effects, but also potentially nerf you badly. It's definitely pure luck as to whether these pills will screw your game up entirely, but that's the risk you take.

But my favourite part of Raxxon are the special zombies. Every turn there is a chance for a new unique zombie to break out of containment and appear at the other locations. There's a wide range of them and essentially you have to go to Raxxon and use un-allocated action die matching the code to stop them escaping. Doing so allows the players to vote on whether they stop the special zombie getting out or reduce the number of regular zombies appearing elsewhere.

The special zombies are really cool, with great artwork and a "log" back story for each one. Also when you attack them, you roll a die and apply the encounter effect depending on their unique abilities. Thematically this is the strongest element of The Long Night, but my one beef is that stopping the containment requires a lot from the players. Each one needs two specific action dice to prevent it and when you've only got three to begin with, that's a tall order especially as you have to physically go there as well, which is likely either screwing you over in exposure or delaying you in completing the main objective or Crisis card. So usually they'll always escape each turn, but they're only a problem if you attack them. Aside from the odd one or two they won't directly gun for you so just like a basic zombie you'll usually just avoid them. And then kill off the easy pickings first to avoid overrun's.

It's nothing special, but the theme alone of having a facility full of cool tech with zombies straight out of a video game is enticing enough for me to want to include this module as often as I can, however you can happily leave this one out if teaching to brand new players just to keep things simple.




Verdict

Going in with a different frame of mind allows me to enjoy Dead of Winter a bit more, but that only goes so far. My personal gripes with it still remain, but it is what it is and because many gamers out there love it to bits, which is great, that's not the focus of this review.

But looking at The Long Night on its own, 90% of this game is exactly the same as the original. The survivors and cards will be different, but it's essentially more of the same. As for the new modules, one is an auto-include for every game, the others will depend on your group, but none of them are particularly substantial or game-changing and that's a shame. I love expansions where they just add more of the good stuff normally, but those tend to be cheap and in small boxes, not giant standalone releases like this.

If you feel Dead of Winter is going to be a game you love, then by all means get this version first. It's the same as the original, but you can add in the extra content at your leisure. You're only going to want both if you're a completionist and adore Dead of Winter as it's not like the previous version was getting repetitive or anything, the price tag is too high to just gun for the modules.

But despite my personal issues, which are a subjective thing, the game has elevated itself to a point where I'm fine with playing it if it hits the table in its current expanded form so that's a plus. But why waste time and money on producing Dead of Winter 1.2 when I'll bet people are more interested in when we're going to get that space version . . . .


If you are interested in this game you can find a copy at your friendly local gaming store - http://www.findyourgamestore.co.uk/



YOU WILL LIKE THE LONG NIGHT IF:


You highly enjoyed the original and just want to increase the variety given.


You are new to Dead of Winter and want the best experience of the two versions.


You feel that new modules alone are worth it.



YOU WILL NOT LIKE THE LONG NIGHT IF:


You weren't a fan of the original and are hoping for major revisions - it's the same game.


You're not interested in more of the same and were hoping for lots of new, original content.


Your sole purpose is to get the new modules, the price tag doesn't justify them alone.

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